Effect of Plus Ultra Casualties on Coalition?
Agence France Presse reports that a human rights group and the main opposition party have called for the exit of the 380 Salvadoran troops from Iraq in the wake of bloody clashes at Najaf on Sunday. ‘ “The blood of our soldiers has begun to run, and that is enough reason for our government to order the immediate return of those troops,” said Miguel Montenegro of the Committee of Human Rights. A spokesman for the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front, Sigfrido Reyes, said that this is “a highly volatile and dangerous situation” for Salvadoran troops in Iraq. “We demand an urgent repatriation of our troops before we have to lament more deaths,” he said. “We rejected their being sent to join occupation forces throughout Iraq led by the United States, Britain and Spain.”
The recently elected Salvadoran President Tony Saca had already intimated in late March that El Salvador might withdraw its troops from Iraq at the end of their one-year term this summer. He seems to have waffled on the matter, though, and some on the right will probably be more reluctant to withdraw now that blood has been spilled. AFP says ” San Salvador Archbishop Fernando Saenz, after Sunday mass, said the deaths were “very painful.” However “terrorism must be faced and there must be international cooperation,” he said. ‘
Saca, a conservative, defeated leftist candidate Schafik Handal, who had promised to bring the troops home, this past March. Washington had intervened in the election, threatening various boycotts against Salvador if Handal won. Both Saca and Handal are Palestinian-Salvadorans, called “Turcos” in Central America because emigration began during the Ottoman Empire.
If both Spain and El Salvador withdraw from Iraq this summer, there wouldn’t be much left of the Spanish-speaking Plus Ultra contingent that now patrols Najaf and Diwaniyah.